Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Preschool Activities: The Power of Pillowfights

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

In the past, Tiff and I have shared the insights we gained from reading the book Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Recently I picked up their new book which is entitled Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing. I have been fascinated by this great read and I wanted to share something I learned that relates to our kids.

Chapter Six of the book is called: "The Utter Importance of Pillow Fights." And they aren't kidding. Listen to this sentence: "University of Montreal professor Daniel Parquette recently made the case that parents wrestling, grappling, and play-fighting with their young children is a good thing, not a bad things, because it teaches kids competitive skills."

By rough and tumble play the experts include activities such as pretending to be a monster and playfully chasing kids around the couch, tickling back and forth, engaging kids in pillow fights and playing tug-of-war over cushions. Through cross-cultural studies, experts have shown that rough-housing and rough-and-tumble play are valuable because they help children to be successfully aggressive.

What does being successfully aggressive mean? I will let the experts explain: "Paquette explains that this kind of play, where the parent can escalate or reduce the aggressiveness, teaches children how to express their aggression but in a modulated and controlled way. Doing so within the context of an emotional bond keeps these displays of aggression safe, yet it also destabilizes children, pushing them and expanding their comfort zone."

Pillow fights and rough-and-tumble play help kids later in life to:
Be brave in unfamiliar situations
Stand up for themselves
And learn to take risks.
It gives them training time to get comfortable with the emotional intensity of competition.

There is just one rule: "The imperative thing in roughhousing is that the parent maintain control, animating children but de-escalating when kids are on the brink of anger or frustration."

The chapter emphasizes that there has been a recent trend toward bubble-wrapping our kids. But rough-and-tumble play with a parent is where the fine line between playing and fighting can be safely explored.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? There is just enough time to grab some pillows before bed.

*Quotes from Top Dog by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman pages 118-120.

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